In conversation with Thomas Kuehl, President, Nissan India

25th Jul 2018 10:19 am

We speak to the president of Nissan India Operations about the challenges faced by Nissan and Datsun and how he envisages the future of both brands in India.

On the company’s new pricing strategy for Datsun and Nissan, upcoming products and dealer support.

After Skoda, what’s it like at Nissan, and what brought about the move?

I’ve learnt a lot with Skoda in India and also in my time with the VW Group, and it was a difficult decision to leave. But Nissan is a Japanese company, customer centric and this is something that I admired and was always focused on. What I really like is their innovation, because Nissan was the front runner for electric cars. With the Leaf, we are number one worldwide, and for me the future of mobility was something that I was focusing on.

Things at Nissan have been challenging on the dealer, sales and product front. So what are your immediate priorities?

With Nissan, I have to say, the setup is excellent, but for a challenger brand, we are not where we should be. We have two brands catering to the right segments at the moment but we have some life cycle management issues. From a network point of view, I think it is strong, but we have to do more. We are very good when it comes to Tier-III and Tier-IV but we are lacking in Tier-I and Tier-II cities, and that has something to do with life cycle management.

There are rumours that dealers are leaving. Is streamlining and sorting out the dealer network your priority?

Yes, we are conducting many coaching programmes and preparing them for all the future launches. At the moment, we don’t have a strong product portfolio, so we are trying to fix that. We have changed the margin system to make sure that dealers have a very fair opportunity to be profitable. Because when the dealer is doing the right things, he will be profitable and he will always do the right thing for the customers.

With both Nissan and Datsun, there aren’t enough products, but what you are doing now is life cycle management. Aren’t new products the need of the hour?

Yes, they are. For every car manufacturer, it is essential to have new products. Yes, our life cycle management is not the best at the moment, but you will see that we will have a major event every six months from this festival season onwards. It will begin with a major change for the Go and the Go+, and we will also have new products for new segments.

What about sales? Is that also a major concern?

I am not satisfied with the sales because I think both, the products and brands, deserve more. That also has something to do with the limited reach that we have. But there are good bits too, like when it comes to the Redigo, we are the only ones to have stabilised sales in a segment that is shrinking. And we still have more plans with the Redigo. We have a special version coming in during the festival time. It’s a fantastic product and I am proud to say, being the president of Nissan, for nine months I am driving the Redigo. Many say I am a little crazy and that I should drive a Patrol but I think our entry model is more important. I’m very positive that, with the things we are doing with the Redigo and the successor model, we will have a major impact in the segment.

What about Nissan? There are huge gaps and older products. What’s the plan there? Could we see an SUV below the Kicks, for example, or sedans perhaps?

So, with our two brands, our strategy is to have Datsun cater to the sub-Rs 10 lakh mark, and you will see an SUV there. I can’t say more but I promise you it will be a killer in the market. With Nissan, you will see SUVs and sedans that will be competitive, but they will not come tomorrow but will be here soon. Then, there is also the Leaf, which we will launch. It won’t be a volume product but more of a halo product, and we will work with the government and various agencies.

You were looking at the Note as well. Is there any possibility of that making it here?

The Note is a success story in Japan, and we obviously want to bring it here. We have been test driving it and everyone who drives it says wow, because it’s an electric car powered by a small but very efficient 1.0-litre petrol engine. It’s really fantastic and you don’t have to have to plug-in for electricity. Also what no one is aware of is, we are really trying to make the Note in India too. We want to localise it and do some engineering here, too. After all, we have more than 7,000 engineers working here in the alliance. 

Also see:

Nissan reinforces two-brand strategy with Datsun

Datsun SUV for India confirmed

Nissan Note e-Power under evaluation for localisation

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